David Eigenberg on CHICAGO FIRE and Life After SEX AND THE CITY

Eigenberg, DavidI recently had an interesting conversation with David Eigenberg about, among other things, his role in CHICAGO FIRE.

Eigenberg was not always set on a collision course to become an actor.  After serving in the United States Marine Corps, he attended a trading school in Chicago, where there happened to be a musical in town seeking a replacement cast.  Though he couldn’t sing, dance, or act, Eigenberg told me he heard the search was on, and he went for it.  He said, “The director saw something in me, I guess.”

Following his work in the musical, he went on to acting school in New York, where he also got some experience in the theatre.

When the CHICAGO FIRE role of Christopher Herrmann opened for auditions, he went through the normal process of a reading, then a screen test.  He said, “It felt good when I walked in the room for the reading, and it went well.  I felt good about it.  I went to do a screen test with a couple of other guys.  Then, they called me and said I got the job.”

Eigenberg told me, “I identify with Herrmann a lot, with his hopes and desires, his frustration at trying to figure stuff out, and also the big concern he has for the people he works with and the job he performs.”  He said, “I’m also committed to the work that I do and concerned for the people I work with.  We’re all in this thing together, from the cast members to the crew, the production assistants, the grip, gaffer, all of them.

Chicago Fire - Season 1“The challenge is making sure my character is grounded.  It’s a procedural show, but there’s also a certain amount of action.  I have to balance all of that.

“Also, being a firefighter is not an ordinary job,” he went on.  “There’s nothing wrong with an ordinary job.  Steve (Brady, who Eigenberg played in SEX AND THE CITY) was much more of a quiet and fun guy.  This guy in CHICAGO FIRE is much more stringent.  He’s a strict dad.  He likes things to unfold as planned and gets frustrated when they don’t.

“It’s funny,” Eigenberg continued, “‘cause over the years, a lot of people have asked my wife, ‘What’s it like to live with Steve?  She’s like, he’s not Steve.’  Steve was harder to play in some ways.  In an ensemble like CHICAGO FIRE, you’re really piecing it together because the bytes are smaller.”  He continued, “When you have 11-13 different characters or more in every episode and 44 minutes worth of programming, there’s only so much devotion you can give to any one character.”

When I asked if he was able to draw on any past characters to play Herrmann, Eigenberg said, “I don’t really draw on past characters.  I’m really a character actor, and my stuff varies from character to character in what I do.  I look at any specific characters I play by what’s important in their lives, their hopes and dreams, their job, their function in the story.  For Herrmann, I wonder about his experiences in life.  What would draw people to this line of work?  The facts in the characters I play are usually like a road map, given through dialogue, character descriptions, and sometimes the actions they take.  It’s not a lot of spoken stuff.”

Chicago Fire - Season 1In addition to his CHICAGO FIRE role, Eigenberg also recently played screenwriter Ernest Lehman in the TV biopic LIZ AND DICK, which stars Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor.  Of working with Lohan he said, “She’s a good girl that’s got some stuff going on.  My heart goes out to her.  She’s not had an easy life.  She’s a very sweet young lady.  God bless her.”

Eigenberg can be seen in CHICAGO FIRE on Wednesday nights on NBC.

Catch an all new episode tonight at 10/9c – an expensive necklace goes missing at the scene of a fire, leading to an internal investigation; Cruz makes a desperate decision to save his brother from a gang war; Dawson invites Casey to a party.